“The weakest feature in this line of works… is their liability to be surprised.”: Washington Defenses May 1864

On this day (May 17) in 1864, Brigadier-General Albion P. Howe, inspector of artillery (and former division commander in the Army of the Potomac’s Sixth Corps), submitted a lengthy report examining the defenses of Washington, D.C.  The Secretary of War assigned this task to Howe in late April.  No doubt the justification for this inspection came from Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant’s orders to pull troops out of the Washington defenses for service in the field.

In proper military order, Howe put his bottom line up front:

After a careful examination of the line of works I am of the opinion that they are ample in their engineering and artillery strength for the purpose for which they were intended–the defense of Washington.

But the devil was in the details.  Howe considered the defenses separately for north and south sides of the Potomac.  And even within that split, he separated the sections of the line into groupings, or classes.

For the works south of the Potomac, Howe grouped these as such:

First, those which immediately cover approaches to the city, and are within artillery command of the city; second, those which cover approaches, and are beyond the range of artillery command; third, those which do not cover approaches to the city, and are beyond the range of artillery from the city.

In his assessment of the First Class, Howe offered an observation which might have applied to all the works:

With an artillery strength of men sufficient to develop the fire of the forts, and a proper support of infantry, I am of opinion that the works cannot be carried by an assault.

But he added, in the next paragraph:

The weakest feature in this line of works, and it obtains more or less throughout the whole line of the defenses, is their liability to be surprised. The garrisons of the works, with the exception of small guards, are quartered outside the works. No infantry force has been kept between and near the line of the works. The outpost guards have been very weak. The character of the topography of the country for miles outside of the works, with the numerous roads, all favor and invite a sudden and covered dash upon the works.

So as formidable as the defenses were, Howe worried there was insufficient manpower to maintain and defend the line.  An unmanned fort can only embarrass the enemy’s line of march, if I may.

Looking north of the Potomac, Howe rated the works as such:

The works on the north side of the Potomac are a continuous line of forts from Fort Sumner, on the river above the city, to Fort Greble, on the river below the city. The forts in this line are in artillery support of each other, and connected throughout by earthern epaulements. …. The most important position of this line is that part included between Forts Sumner and Slocum, as it covers the approaches to the city on the river line of roads. The most important works in this portion of the line are Forts Stevens, Reno, Sumner, and Slocum. The portion of the line between Fort Slocum and the Eastern Branch is less liable to be assailed, and that portion of the line east of the Eastern Branch the least liable to attack of any part of the whole defenses….

Four forts in the works deserve special attention here.  Forts Stevens, Reno, Summer, and Slocum.   (And note that Fort Reno included a secondary work known as Battery Reno.)  I chose the map above for this reason.  Notice the notations related to “Battle of July 11th and 12th” north of Washington.  Yes, there’s something we will observe a 150th for in a few months.   Howe’s detailed evaluation of those four forts read:

Fort Sumner, Col. Daniel Chaplin commanding.–Garrison, six companies First Maine Heavy Artillery–1 colonel, 30 commissioned officers, I ordnance-sergeant, 868 men. Armament, six 6-pounder field guns, four 12-pounder field guns, eight 30-pounder barbette, three 8-inch siege howitzers, two Coehorn mortars, one 10-inch mortar, six 4½-inch rifled, two 100-pounder Parrotts. Magazines, two; only one of which is dry and in good condition. Ammunition, not a full supply; serviceable. Implements, full set and serviceable. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Discipline, fair. Garrison is sufficient….

Fort Reno, Col. Lewis O. Morris commanding.–Garrison, four companies Seventh New York Heavy Artillery–21 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 602 men. Armament, nine 24-pounder barbette, one 24-pounder F. D. howitzer, two 8-inch siege howitzers, two Coehorn mortars, two 10-inch mortars, four 30-pounder Parrotts, one 100-pounder Parrott. Magazines, two; dry and serviceable. Ammunition, full supply and serviceable. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, indifferent; wants improving much. Drill in infantry, very indifferent; wants more energy and attention in the commanding officers. Discipline, too loose for efficiency. Garrison is ample strength.

[Battery] Reno, Capt. S. E. Jones commanding.–Garrison, one company Seventh New York Heavy Artillery–5 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 149 men. Armament, seven 20-pounder Parrotts. Magazines, one; dry and in good order. Ammunition, full supply and serviceable. Implements, complete and serviceable. Drill in artillery, indifferent; wants improving. Drill in infantry, very indifferent; but little attention seems to have been given to it. Discipline, deficient. Garrison is of sufficient strength….

Fort Stevens, Lieut. Col. R. C. Benton commanding.–Garrison, two companies Eleventh Vermont Volunteers (First Vermont Heavy Artillery), one company New Hampshire Heavy Artillery (unattached)–1 lieutenant-colonel, 14 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 423 men. Armament, four 24-pounder barbette, six 24-pounder siege, two 8-inch siege howitzers, one Coehorn mortar, one 10-inch mortar, five 30-pounder Parrotts. Magazines, two; dry and in good order. Ammunition, full supply and in good order. Implements, complete and in good order. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Discipline, fair. Garrison of sufficient strength….

Fort Slocum, Lieut. Col. R. C. Benton commanding.–Garrison, two companies First Vermont Artillery–l lieutenant-colonel, 10 commissioned officers, 1 ordnance-sergeant, 280 men. Armament, six 10-pounder Parrotts, three 24-pounder barbette, three 24-pounder siege, four 24-pounder F. D. howitzers, two Coehorn mortars, one 10-inch mortar, seven 4½-inch (rifled). Magazines, three; dry and in good condition. Ammunition, full supply and in good order. Implements, complete and in good order. Drill in artillery, fair. Drill in infantry, fair. Discipline, fair. Garrison not of sufficient strength….

In May 1864, the Washington defenses bristled with guns, ranging from the heavy Parrotts, and along the river even some large Rodman guns, all the way down to field pieces and coehorn mortars.  But, no matter how strong those positions might look…

… the works needed men to make them a proper “fort.”  The 1st Maine, 7th New York, and 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery Regiments, then manning those critical forts listed above, were soon to depart for Virginia among several other “heavies” to reinforce the Army of the Potomac.  A gamble, perhaps not so risky in the spring of 1864, that these troops might be spared from the defenses of Washington.

(Howe’s report appears in OR, Series I, Volume 36, Part II, Serial 68, pages 883-897.)

Need heavy guns on the Potomac: Seacoast defenses for Washington

Even after all direct threats to Washington, D.C. abated with the end of the Gettysburg Campaign, at least one man in the capital city saw the need to improve defenses.

On September 1, 1863, Brigadier-General John G. Barnard wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

The works of Rozier’s Bluff, and near Jones’ Point are nearly ready to receive guns–in fact they could have been mounted some time ago, had the guns and platforms been available. You are well aware that not only are the large seaport towns, like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia making strenuous exertions to increase their armament of improved guns, but even places of a (comparatively) secondary importance, like Portland, &c. If we have war with a maritime power (a possibility which incites all these preparations), the land defenses of Washington will prove unavailing unless also the access by water is prevented.

There is not now a gun mounted for the defense of the Potomac capable of having the slightest effect upon an iron-clad vessel. As it seems to devolve upon me to represent the necessities of Washington, I would recommend that among the guns which actually do become available, a fair proportion should be assigned to Washington.

The Ordnance Department is doing all that can be done to furnish guns. It has no voice, however, in their distribution, and as there are no Governors of States or commissions of citizens to advocate the needs of Washington, I feel called on to make this representation.

A few days later, Barnard would recommend the fortification on Rozier’s Bluff, on the Maryland side of the river, receive the name Fort Foote in honor of Rear-Admiral Andrew H. Foote, who died earlier in the year.  The battery near Jones’ Point was named Battery Rogers after Captain G.W. Roders, killed in action off Morris Island in August.

Not finished petitioning for heavy guns to defend the Potomac, 150 years ago yesterday (September 23), Barnard again called upon the secretary about matter:

By letter of the 1st instant. I represented the importance of speedily arming the two works built for the defense of the Potomac approach to Washington. At your request I mentioned the number or improved sea-coast guns which I thought should be immediately supplied, and I mentioned eight, in consideration of the great demand for guns at the different sea-ports.

This was an off-hand statement, and I have since reflected on the matter, and have come to the conclusion that since there is no armament in Fort Washington of any value whatever, and that these two works will constitute, just now, the real defenses of Washington against maritime attack, the full armament of these works (namely, three 15-inch guns and thirteen 200-pounders) should be furnished very speedily. In case of war with a maritime power, allied with the rebellion, the defense of Washington can hardly be considered second in importance to that of New York.

I have, therefore, to request that in your directions to the Ordnance Department it may be directed to furnish the last-mentioned number of guns as speedily as possible.

Conventional wisdom is that all chances of foreign recognition, and thus intervention of a maritime power in support of the Confederacy, faded with the repulse of Pickett’s Charge.  Yet, here Barnard cites it as if a imminent threat.  Eventually Barnard would get those guns:

Now was the threat of a “maritime power,” allied with the Confederacy, with ironclads on the Potomac much of a real threat in the summer of 1863?  Or was Barnard trying to perfect the defenses while he had leverage?

Consider the quantities of heavy guns received by the Army after Gettysburg:

  • 8-inch Rodman Guns, 123 delivered  from a total of 213 produced.
  • 10-inch Rodman Guns, 1270 of 1301 total produced.
  • 15-inch Rodman Guns, 313 out of 323 produced.
  • 10-inch Parrott Rifles, 40 out of 42 produced.
  • 8-inch Parrott Rifles, 69 out of 91 produced for the Army.
  • 6.4-inch Parrott Rifles, 98 out of 233 produced for the Army.

The tallies don’t count for experimental types or those delivered to the Navy but borrowed by the Army.  But the numbers do include those delivered after the war, on wartime contracts.

Could we make the case that the Army capitalized on the increased wartime spending in order to “get healthy” on what was still considered the primary mission?  That mission being coastal defense, of course.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part II, Serial 49, pages 149 and 226.)

Elevating Gear for your 30-pdr Parrott

I’ve used this photo a few times now. It is a 30-pdr Parrott rifle at Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 051
30-pdr Parrott, registry #341, on Lee’s Hill at Fredericksburg

The carriage is a metal reproduction, replacing a wooden carriage which had badly deteriorated (and left the 4200 pound gun in an unsafe condition). The carriage is a close copy of a siege carriage. You see the rest or cradle on the stock and the traveling trunnions on the cheeks, which were used to situate the gun to the rear of the carriage while on the move. Notice also the carriage lacks the loop at the base of the trail, seen on the smaller field gun carriages. But there’s another fine point of detail to note about this carriage mounting.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 056
Side view of the Parrott showing the elevating screw and gear

This Parrott carriage lacks the standard elevating screw and four handled head that is seen on most reproductions. Instead there is a long threaded screw, offset to the left, and a single crank.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 052
Elevating gear on 30pdr Parrott

Notice how the screw is fixed with a single bolt to an eye on the carriage trail (bottom of this view). The single arm and handle at the top of the screw provides clearance for the gunner. The screw rotates through a brass nut. That nut has a pin fitting directly into a piercing within the knob of the gun.

Fredericksburg 24 Nov 12 053
Right side of Parrott Breech

Very simple in concept. Turn the elevating screw and the travel of the nut will impart elevation on the gun. The Navy and Army used elevating screws of this type on heavy guns. A good example of such wartime use is this photo from the Washington defenses.

The Parrot rifle on the left has the single handle elevating gear offset to the left.

Just a fine detail point to consider on your next visit to Fredericksburg. My contribution to the “how did it work” file for the day.

Better a half-mile farther forward: Defenses of Washington in September ’61 – Part 2

My premise, discussing the Washington defenses in September 1862, is not that the Confederates passed on some grand opportunity – or even there was better than a slim chance of success – but rather that those defenses were not the impressive, near-impregnable works known later in the war.

That said, let me pick up were yesterday’s post stopped. Here is a close up view of the defensive works built around Arlington Heights:

The McDowell Map is … well … fair with regard to elevations. But I am being generous here. The real rise and fall of the ground is not accurately depicted here, and unfortunately is hard for the modern visitor to understand. So let us turn to the assessment of General John G. Barnard and his commission (which also included Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, Generals William Barry, Joseph Totten, and George Cullum) (OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 902-916):

The five works, Fort Craig, Tillinghast, Cass, Woodbury, and DeKalb … covering what are usually called the Heights of Arlington, heights from which the enemy would have within long range of rifled guns the most important public buildings of the city.

Here, the commission said, was the true “defense” of the nation’s capital. Those works served to prevent the Confederates from accomplishing what McClellan had intended to do months earlier to Richmond. But how strong was that line? The commission answered that:

The line would have been better had it been thrown half a mile farther forward; but its location where it is, on ground by no means unfavorable, was not an error of judgment, but a necessity of the circumstances under which it was built….

As mentioned yesterday, the line was a compromise due to the dispositions after the First Battle of Manassas. The commission highlighted the strengths of this line, citing the cross fires that covered approaches, particularly along Columbia Pike (lower quarter of the map above). To the south of the line, Forts Richardson and Ward contained heavy rifles which could aid any defense. 100-pdr Parrott rifles in Batteries Parrott and Cameron on the northern side of the Potomac could fire on the ground in front of the Arlington Heights line, but that was at extreme range of about two miles. Battery Kemble, likewise, could support the line but at over three miles range.

However the commission stated the forts on the Arlington line could only provide direct fire for 1000 yards to their front. That, of course, put the forts within range of counter-battery fire from field artillery. In closing the evaluation of the line, the commission recommended major improvement projects for those forts on Arlington Heights. These included flank defenses, extended lines to cover gorges between the forts, additional bomb-proofs, a strengthened defense at the aqueduct (behind Forts Bennett and Corcoran), and provisioning firing positions for reinforcing field artillery and infantry. The engineers also urged the construction of two more works placed in advance of the line.

The mention of firing positions for field artillery, coming from the commission in the aftermath of the Maryland Campaign, is significant. Even though the Armies of Virginia and Potomac brought their organic artillery with them, it was not the type suited for static line defense. Field artillery’s strength is its mobility. Such makes field artillery quite useful as a “quick reaction” force to bolster defenses in the face of an enemy attack. However, artillery cannot stand alone against a deliberate, close assault. In the field the artillery depends on infantry, of course. If thrown on the fortification line, those field guns would need… well … prepared fortifications. In September 1862, few of those existed for use at the “thin points” of the line.

Keep in mind also the nature of a fixed defense alters the simple math comparisons of armies based on head counts. The defenders must maintain at least token forces at all salients, and retain a mobile reserve. The attackers can chose a sector in which to mass their numbers for effect. Good defensive lines should negate any attacker’s massed strength. But good defensive lines shouldn’t have faults the enemy can exploit.

Again, turn the recommendations around as vulnerabilities an attacker might exploit. To some degree the proposed (and later implemented) improvements were turning “good” to “better”. But if the Federal engineers found an approach by which an attacker could turn the works, you can bet your last greenback the Confederates would have spotted that same flaw given a full reconnaissance. After all, this was Robert E. Lee’s pre-war “back yard.”

But no such planning was ever conducted. While Confederates knew the general strength of the Federal fortifications, no proper, detailed surveys – scoped to supporting an assault on the lines – were ever conducted. For all its prowess on the open battlefield, there were several elements the Army of Northern Virginia lacked and were needed for even a short siege operation. One was ample field engineer support. Lee’s engineer, Walter H. Stevens, scarcely receives mention during the campaign. And the Confederates lacked dedicated topographical engineers, an asset critical for any siege operation.

Another major deficiency, with respect to siege support, was of course heavy artillery. The heaviest gun with the Army of Northern Virginia were a handful of 20-pdr Parrotts. The really big guns – old 24-pdrs, 32-pdrs, Brooke Rifles, Columbiads – were still needed in Richmond or other threatened points. And even if Lee had them at hand, imagine how much an impediment these ponderous weapons would have imposed during the rapid movements which had brought the Army to the gates of Washington.

But perhaps the greatest deficiency which weighed against any siege operation was alluded to in Lee’s post-war quote – supply. At some point even winning armies must stop to eat. Professor Joseph Harsh and others have amply detailed why Lee could not “winter” his army in Fairfax County, so I won’t bore you with another accounting here. Sieges, even short ones, have a way of increasing logistic support demands of an army.

Still, there is the “if” standing out there on Arlington Heights, which those Generals on the commission feared – If “Mr. Audacity” himself, with intimate knowledge of the ground and coming off a long roll of successful, if desperate, offensive actions, had placed so much as one gun on Arlington Heights to fire one shell onto the White House grounds, the sound would reverberate beyond D.C.

The “if” is why through the winter and into the spring of 1863 the Washington garrison swelled to triple its size. That garrison was well employed extending and improving the works around Washington to make it positively the most heavily fortified city in the Western Hemisphere …. And then with parapets crowning nearly every rise of ground, bristling with guns.

“I could not tell my men to take that fort….”: The Washington Defenses in September ’61 – Part 1

In the opening chapter of Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862, historian Joseph Harsh offered a quote from General Robert E. Lee as he observed one of the Federal forts during a post-war visit.  The former Confederate leader, looking at Fort Ward, remarked, “I could not tell my men to take that fort when they had nothing to eat for three days.”

Fort Ward 1 Mar 08 034
A bastion of Fort Ward today

That single sentence captures several factors which pushed Lee’s decision to turn north across the Potomac and away from the capital city to the west.  In his accounting of the campaign (and in other works), Harsh discussed many of these in ample detail.  The quote from Lee is indeed significant, for it points out Lee actually did have a notion – be it quickly dismissed at that time 150 years ago and stillborn – to press the Washington defenses.  So the next logical question to pose is “what was the state of those Federal defenses in September 1862?”

Reading about the Maryland Campaign, we often see the Washington Defenses described in firm words like “bristling”.  But we must keep in context the evolution of the defenses and the stages of construction.  It is far too easy for us to confuse maps showing the final state of the city defenses with what existed at one of the crucial points of the war.  Instead, construction of the works, comprising the most heavily defended city in the Western Hemisphere, proceeded in phases.  The first major burst of construction came in the summer of 1861 (yes defenses existed prior to that time, but after 1st Manassas there was a flurry of activity).  For the most part, it was the works build in that burst of activity that formed the defenses in September 1862.

Allow me to focus, to illustrate that, on the defenses on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  These, I would contend, were the likely spots that Lee might have asked his hungry men to assail that late summer of 1862:

The blue lines represent the major works in the Federal lines at that time.  (I may have missed a few detached batteries or other lines, so this is certainly open for input).  There are four major concentrations:  approaches to Chain Bridge, Arlington, approaches to Alexandria, and the forward lines near Falls Church.   Depending on how you wish to draw the line, the frontage covered ten to twelve miles from Chain Bridge Road to the southern approaches to Alexandria.

Partly as result of the fear that Lee would indeed order his men to hit those works, the Secretary of War formed a commission to report on the state of the defenses.  That report (See OR, Series I, Volume 21, Serial 31, pages 902-916) serves as a snapshot in time, detailing the state and nature of defenses around Washington in the late summer and fall of 1862.  Taken in whole, the defenses included over 700 pieces of artillery ranging from the largest rifled guns to mortars.  However, that is 700 spread about fortifications defending at all compass points around Washington, not just along the line in Northern Virginia. Perhaps a third, probably less, of the artillery was in Virginia.

Considering the December report, these works were in no way considered complete and certainly not impregnable.   Recall these works were products of the stalemate of the previous year.  Blind angles, uncovered ground, and gaps existed within the line of forts.  Fears of attack prompted some improvements.  General John G. Barnard, senior officer of the commission, reported “On the south of the Potomac, rifle-pits were thrown up between the works, new gun-platforms laid, and the armament improved; obstructions made across the valleys of Four-Mile Run and Hunting Creek; Fort Lyon strengthened by advanced works, and batteries for field guns prepared.”  New 100-pdr Parrotts arrived to improve the armament.  But again, that was the state AFTER the threat, and not during those critical first two weeks of September.

Looking first to the Alexandria end of the line, the location of the forts on the map reveal what the commission reported – these works were spread out and in some points exposed.  The commission outlined improvements such as extended lines and additional batteries to provide flanking fires.  If we turn those recommendations around, assessing them instead as weaknesses that an attacker might exploit, there was opportunity for the Confederates to gain a foothold.  However Alexandria is not Washington.  While possession might disrupt traffic on the Potomac, Lee had to obtain other key terrain from which to directly threaten Washington.

Ron has an excellent series of posts discussing the defenses at Chain Bridge. It is worth pointing out Forts Marcy and Ethan Allen appear isolated in a pocket on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  But these works benefited greatly from mutual support from the Maryland side.  Battery Cameron, for instance, deterred any Confederate use of the high ground south of Fort Ethan Allen.

Turning southwest, we can dismiss the advanced forts around Falls Church and Munson Hill as largely unmaintained.  Such uncovered the line before Arlington.  Since Robert E. Lee certainly knew that terrain rather well, let me examine that sector in detail in tomorrow’s post.

Allow me to close today’s post with the simple observation:  The defenses of 1865…

English: Map of American Civil War defenses of...
Map of the Defenses of Washington… in 1865

… were not what confronted Lee in September 1862. We should consider those defensive works in the state they existed at that point in time.

Where was Camp Casey, Virginia?

Jimmy Price offered up an interesting hypothetical, while at the same time asking the location of a wartime camp located in Arlington, Virginia. Camp Casey, as Jimmy points out, was one of several installations that sprang up around the Arlington area during the war.  Yet, an exact location description proves elusive.

This is one of those “fourth dimensional” relations that I love to research – finding the location today and linking it to the past.  Not just to say “then and now,” but to point out how “we” are not much different from “them” as we stand on the same ground.  At any rate…

Where was Camp Casey?  Jimmy offered up some leads.  Different sources described the camp as on Arlington Heights, near Arlington House, and near Fort Albany.  But then again, just about everything in Arlington fits that description!

We really can’t pace this off from Fort Albany because… well… the site of Fort Albany is under I-395 as it passes to the west of the Pentagon today.  So we are left with a few newspaper sketches of the fort for reference.

This appears to depict the fort from the western face (or what I’d call the business side where the defenders expected an attack).  The fort faced Long Branch (I think that was the wartime name), which is a tributary of Four Mile Run.  It covered Columbia Turnpike as it passed towards the Long Bridge.  For what it is worth, the ground behind the fort appears bare of trees.

The one lead I can offer is from the papers of John B. Stickney, who served in the 35th Massachusetts.  When researching the location of Fort Whipple, I ran across a transcribed letter from Stickney where he described Camp Casey as near Hunter’s Chapel.  His letter was written in August 1862.  Alas, I am working from a transcribed source, and not the actual letter in its context.  (Stickney’s papers are part of the James S. Schoff Civil War Collection at the University of Michigan, if anyone is able to help here.)

Given that, allow me to turn to the McDowell Map of 1862:

Early in the war soldiers tore down Hunter’s Chapel to build a guard house in the area of Hunter’s Crossroads, where Columbia Pike and Glebe Road meet.

The McDowell map shows that Columbia Pike passed along a ridge spur before crossing the run in front of Fort Albany.  In some places, the ground between Arlington House and Columbia Pike was open or at least cultivated field.  In other places it was depicted as covered with trees.  The distance between Fort Albany and Hunter’s Chapel was about 1.4 miles.  So there’s room to argue about how Arlington House might be seen from Hunter’s Chapel.

Working against Stickney’s description of the location, there are two other forts in close proximity.  When he wrote his letter, wouldn’t Stickney reference those fortifications?  Keep in mind Fort Craig was built in the summer of 1861.  But Fort Richardson was not built until 1863.  (CORRECTION: Fort Richardson was built in the fall of 1861).  And so long as we are mentioning Fort Richardson, just south of that post was Camp Convalescent.  But it too was not established until mid-war.

Just some speculations here.  Certainly nothing concrete.  But that’s what I like about blogging – you can throw a question out there and see where it leads.  So please stop over at Jimmy’s The Sable Arm and help find Camp Casey if you have a lead.

(… speaking of leads, while looking for background on Stickney, I was suddenly re-acquainted with his story by way of his St. Augustine, Florida connections.  He served as a judge there after the war.  On a visit to Washington D.C. he died of Yellow Fever – talk about life circles – in 1882.  He was buried in the Huguenot Cemetery there.  And why would I remember this?  Well there’s a nice ghost story involving Judge Stickney!)

Lost Graves at Fort Ward

From the Washington Examiner:

Lost Graves Located in Alexandria Park

A two-year archeological investigation of Fort Ward Park in Alexandria yielded a total of 43 previously lost graves, only three of which were marked.

The dig, which began after descendants of those believed to be buried in the park asked city officials to locate the graves of their relatives, revealed artifacts and gravesites of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers and a post-war African-American community.

And although city archeologist Pam Cressey said there are no plans to excavate or immediately identify the newly-discovered graves, she said she’s grateful that the families of those who used to live in the area now have some closure.

“This full-scale study now allows the story of so many to be told,” Cressey said. “The findings further enrich our appreciation for the area and give credit to the many groups that once lived there.”

Alexandria acquired Fort Ward Park just prior to the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. But in the years to follow, many of the park’s cemeteries fell into disrepair until officials sought to celebrate as another major anniversary of the Civil War — this time the 150th — approached.

Those who came to the park for its commemoration told city officials they wanted to “bring to light, preserve and tell the stories” of those who had lived on the grounds of Fort Ward Park, but felt they were unable to because the grave sites of many former inhabitants were lost and even buried, Cressey said

Plans were put in place, and beginning in 2010, a team of archeologists descended upon the park with ground penetrating radars and other tools to find gravesites and artifacts spread across the more than 30 acres that make up the park.

Cressey said the City of Alexandria financed much of the dig and the trails and markers set to be installed to recognize the archeologists’ latest findings, but did not have immediate access to the exact total of the project.

Fencing will be installed to protect the newly-discovered burial areas, and each grave will be marked with a blank signpost. Over time, city archeologists do expect to identify many of the unmarked graves based on their location and those buried around them.

Now that the archaeological surveys are complete, Cressey said the teams are analyzing artifacts and making a Fort Ward Management Plan. (Full story)

A close friend of mine, and long time beltway historian, would add that Fort Ward is certainly not the only place where such graves lay unidentified.

For those unfamiliar with this park – Fort Ward by markers.