tv [untitled] May 13, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
american federation of labor. as its president for nearly 40 years, gompers campaigned for higher wages and shorter hours and safer working conditions. a strong advocate of collective bargaining, he urged his members to be more active. his campaign did not set well with the organizers. it made gompers himself a statesman admired far beyond the gate. the gompers memorial exudes his force. the champion of the working man is seated behind him and half a
dozen workers represent justice, unity and the spirit of self improvement. franklin and eleanor roosevelt were on hand when the memorial was on hand early in 1933. fittingly so, at the dawn of the new deal and the decade of historic strides for organized labor. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives around the country. at the outbreak of the civil war in the spring of 1861, washington d.c. was a lightly defended city and vulnerable to attack with one fort located 12 miles south of the city and the fate of virginia across the potomac river. by 1865, the capital had been the most fortified city in the
world. we visit three of the surviving forts with dale floyd. author of the studies for the national park service. >> right now, we are in the museum at fort ward which has a variety of different artifacts in it. the nice thing is they have a map of the defenses of washington and it gives you a good idea of where they are today. we have at fort ward, which is here. and, today, we are also going to go to fort foot, which is down here and all the way up to fort stevens, which is up there. the reason that the forts were built was to basically to protect the capital of the united states. it first started in may of 1861. soon after, virginia, seceded
from the union. the troops moved over one night, across the potomac, over in arlington and alexandria and started building fortifications. after the first battle of manassass in july of 1861, in which the union was actually defeated, the men came streaming back into the city and the city, the confederates could have walked in and taken the city. after that, with the fear, more and more fortifications were built and general john g.barnard was in charge of the forces for almost the whole war, started developing the system of fortifications around the capital and how they would actually defend the city from enemy invaders.
after the second manassas, fear again and some more impetus to make sure the forts were doing their job. over the four years, many of the forts were changed. they were made larger and guns were changed to get the best function out of each fort and out of the system itself. the defenses were tested in july of 1864. before i say that, there were raids on the forts by the guerella forces. the only real attack, not an attack, but reconnaissance which took place july 11th and 12th in 1864 when jubal early fought
near frederick, maryland and the march near washington on the northern side and eventually came up and faced these forts up there, the main one ft. stevens where abraham lincoln came out to watch what was going on. he was not successful. he eventually turned around and back down to the valley. after that, nothing tested the fortifications after that. besides the forts themselves, you had the batteries that were on both sides or in the rear of the forts. you also had trenches that connected the forts all the way around the city. you can see up here where in between, you had the covered
ways going all the way from one fort to the next and the next battery and on so troops could move back and forth without being seen. they built other defenses like block houses along railroads for channel attacks. they had other things they actually built for protection within the whole system of the defenses of washington. so it was actually a system of fortifications. if you attacked one, you would catch fire from the forts on both sides of that fort. they were mutually supporting and it would have been very hard to actually take one fort because of all of the fire that you would receive coming from the various forts. it is not important,
necessarily, about how many forts there were, it's the system and the mutual defense that was there that would really stop an enemy from getting into the city. just as ft. stevens, when they attacked there, the forts nearby entered into the battle. if you look at some of the pictures they have here, you'll see an interior of ft. stevens and below it is a photo of ft. slemmer. it shows you what a fort looked like on the outside. the vegetation has been removed. you have the sally port with the troops coming out. you can see over the port into the fort where the guns are mounted. that is one of my favorite photographs. this is very helpful for a
start. ft. ward is a good place to actually start our civil tour of the defenses of washington. before we go out and look at ft. ward, i want to point out this is an 1864 plan of the fort. the part that has been restored here is the northwest bastion which is right here. you will see that. the rest of the fort is not as distinct when you walk through it. the northwest bastion is. this is the model of the fort. notice around it is the abete on the outside of the ditch. this is the northwest bastion. this is the gate or sally port to frt war
the engineers there help redo this gate a number of times. but this is your entrance to ft. ward. i want to point out. if you look around there were buildings here which are based on plans and photographs of buildings that were actually in the defenses of washington. but there were other gates like this at some of the other forts, too. they may not have been as nice, but some of them were with the name up above like you see here. the 1865 would not have been on the original gate. above it is the engineer castle. that is the logo of army engineers. as i told you, the engineers at ft. belvar helped rebuild this gate a number of times. they put the engineer castle on
top. they oversaw the construction of the original defenses of washington. this is one of the best preserved of the various forts in the defenses of washington. these parts of it are fairly well taken care of. once we get to the northwest bastion, you will see what the fort would have looked like at the time of the civil war. but these are all parts of the fort that we're actually in. it was a large one. you have a large area. there is also signage that we will see as we walk through explaining what each resource we run into was. such as a sign here which is pointing out that there was a bomb proof right here which collapsed in. a bombproof, basically, was for men to go in when the fort was
being shelled and it would protect them. depending, it would at least be made out of earth. sometimes they had a basement from something they used or bricks, whatever they used in it. it had dirt over top with grass growing on it. if you got inside the bombproof, you were pretty well safe. that's what's underneath here. we are coming to the northwest bastion. first of all, notice the revetment, the wood, that is there to strengthen the fort. besides the earth, you have the wood that helps keep it in place. you can see the guns and they are a variety of guns that you will see. and this is what happened in a lot of forts.
it's what guns you could get a hold of. everything from field artillery to bigger guns. the fort itself, was to cover the river turnpike and the alexandria railroad and the leesburg pike. we are on a higher point so the guns can fire a long distances and they can coverage those distances. the fort, when it was redone in 1964, it held 36 guns with the perimeter of 18 from 540 yards to 818 yards with the bigger fort and 12 additional guns within the fort. they started building it very early and kept working on it and changing it to the place where it was eventually the fifth largest.
you had basically during the war, green guns and black guns. the bronze and the iron. usually the bronze was smooth and the black guns were rifle guns. the rifle guns had a better range and actually fired better. but a gun like this was a good anti-personnel weapon. there were various types of ammunition you could use in this, plus, even at times, you could put chains in here and fire at an enemy and the chain could mow down a number of men. this became a very -- this type of gun became a very good anti-personnel weapon. with this platform, you can get up and take a look at the fort without actually walking on the
walls. as we get up here, you can see the ditch and the embracures. on the inside of the ditch, that is the scarp. on the outside, that is the counter scarp. on the top, they have the bushes running along. that is to keep people from walking in the moat and trying to walk up the parapit. but the bushes are sort of like abete, which were pointed sticks and stakes that they would have a lot outside of the forts. it has two purposes. to keep people out and give you an idea of what an abete would look like. the platforms they built, you can walk into the moat and get a view along it, but you are not actually walking on it and helping to destroy it.
so if you an attacked, you came across open ground. these trees would have been cut down. that would have been all open ground. they could see you and start hitting you with artillery and rifle fire way back. you come up and hit the abete and into the ditch and down and then try to climb up the high parapit. while you would have had infantry on the other side and artillery firing out at you. it was not an easy task in trying to take one of the forts in the defenses of washington, plus you are catching fire from the other forts on both sides of this one. a lot of these forts in the defenses of washington, when i first came to this area in the late '60s, there were a lot of them still here. in the years that have passed, a
lot of them became housing developments or whatever. interest over the years has actually increased. it was a problem in this area because these were union forts and most of these people in virginia had southern sympathies. they couldn't see any good reason for saving a northern fort. we're now at ft. foote. on the potomac river in maryland. we have come from ft. ward, across the potomac river, to ft. foote. on this map, you'll see it would be anchoring the defenses on the potomac river down here. across the river in alexandria, was battery rodgers. the two of them covered ships or
if something would come up. this fort was built, constructed, between 1863 and 1865. unlike most of the other forts, it was not abandoned at the end of the civil war. they continued to maintain this fort and man it until 1878 because it was on the river. the only other fort on the river, of course, you had battery rodgers across the river, on toward the chesapeake bay was ft. washington. it was across from mt. vernon. it was manned actually by marines at the beginning of the war and was manned in one sort of another during the war. it was not actually part of the civil defenses of washington. the circle of forts. if there would have been ships trying to come up, it would have
had an affect also. if you look at the map here or actually plan, it will give you an idea of the way the fort was located on the river. you have the fort itself and then some of the buildings associated with it behind. but its main focus was the river itself even though it anchored the other civil war defenses of washington. this is the way that it would have looked to someone that would have come here during the civil war. this is a national park. at times, it has been quite overgrown. right now, you can see if you look around, it still needs some
manicuri manicuring. it is better than i have seen it in the past. you saw at ft. ward, how well taken care of it is. it's a city park, actually. the city does a very good job of taking care of ft. ward. other forts, depending on who maintains them and how good a job they do, you can see an a lot in some places where it's completely overgrown and you don't have a good idea of what you are actually seeing. we're coming down to the water, to the potomac river, and if you look across the way, you'll see alexandria in virginia, where i mentioned at jones point was battery rodgers. jones point would have been up in this direction on the other side of the bridge, actually, where jones point with battery
rodgers was. the forts went off from there. it anchored the defenses on the virginia side and the forts went all through alexandria and on over toward arlington and back to the potomac river and across. they actually had a chain that they could put across here, across the potomac, to keep the ships from coming across the river. they did have it moored here to keep the chains across the river. this is the map. here is ft. foote and jones point over here and back over to ft. ward. then, we are going to go to ft. stevens, which is right here. so to give you an idea, you see the black marks pointing out
where the different forts were. then the city, more or less, imposed on the map itself. we're coming up on one of the 15-inch rodman guns. there were guns like this that had actually a 360 degrees shooting area because you can move it all the way around this ring. now, these guns were left here when they left the fort and when i saw them, they were off their carriages sitting on the ground. what happened is during world war ii when they were scrapping metal for the war, they came out here and started dismantling the guns. they took them both off the carriages. they cut up one of the carriages and a national park service ranger showed up and said what
are you doing? they said no, no, no. these are protected. this is a national park. we don't want these guns cut up. so, they left, but they just left them sitting here on the ground. for many years, that's the way they were. finally a congressman from pittsburgh, where these guns were actually made, said if the park service is not going to remount them, i want them back in pittsburgh. so at that point, the national park service decided to remount them. so they built the new rings and the new charges for the guns and they have been remounted as they would have looked. it's was quite a job, but it gives you an idea of the way these guns would have looked at the time of the civil was and after. 15-inch rodman guns. the problem with world war i and
world war ii that so many guns were melted down, there are few guns left -- big guns especially, from the civil war period. there are some as a result. it is valuable to have these two here in ft. foote. all the guns have markings on them with the serial number at one place or another. this says it was made in 1863. these are the initials of rodman. thomas rodman. he was also an inspector. he may have inspected it. it depends on the fort itself as to what guns might actually be in them. this had two 15-inch rodman and two rifle parrots. i mentioned a lot of places with vacant platforms.
there were 11 vacant platforms where they could have guns. it depends on the size of the fort as to how many guns are in them and how many guns are available. john g. barnard, as they reconstructed the forts, he decided the new guns would go in and help cover this, which it wasn't doing before. your plans for the fortifications and systems for fortifications did change over the four years of the war. coming back, i told you we would stop and i would show you some of the 360-degree angled guns looked like. the charge is a little bit different. this shows you. you notice the bottom, that gun could be turned 360 degrees so you can fire.
if the gun is mounted on the parapit, you only want an 180 degree turn. it could be fired the other way if needed. that gives you a good idea. but you can see the abete coming up the pointed stakes i mentioned on the outside. it's in the ditch on the outside of the parapit to try to keep enemy from coming in. but you can see that it is clear field of fire in front. this is ft. stevens, which is one of the many forts in the defenses of washington. this is probably the most famous and i'll explain why in a little while. originally, this was known as ft. massachusetts. the people who built it, immediately after the battle of first manassass, which scared
the washington d.c. area and they started getting serious about defenses around the city. ft. massachusetts was dibuilt i the area by massachusetts troops. it had a perimeter of 168 yards and encompassed about 200 men in the fort. after second manassass, in august of 1862, they decided to make this larger because of its location. it's on a high ground and it covers seventh street, which today is georgia avenue. it is the seventh street extended, which a lot of people used. they made it larger so it was about 375 yards perimeter. as i mentioned, it was, perhaps, the most famous fort. that's because of the battle of
ft. stevens on july 11th and 12th of 1864 when jubal early brought troops up through the valley up around frederick, maryland and up to washington d.c. on july 11th, he came near the fort here itself. his men were exhausted. they did feel it out a bit that day, but decided they would have a demonstration in force the next day. now, i've explained before that these defenses were mutually supporting. so that if you attacked ft. stevens, you were going to catch fire from the forts on both sides. even jubal early and his demonstration on the 12th, realized that and decided to actually leave. the defenses, as i mentioned, started being built in 1861. this is kind of an 1864 with the
battle of ft. stevens. this is the culmination of the defenses. following the attack in july of 1864, they pretty much went on the line. but they still had some troops, but they weren't worried about that. lee was more or less headed south and the other confederate troops were doing the same and other parts of the country. so, in 1864, it was probably the culmination of the defenses themselves. although construction went on right to the end of the war and on some of them, even afterwards. interestingly, in the 1930s, the civilian conservation corps was brought in to work on this fort. after the civil war, it was
abandoned and it wasn't until around the turn of 1900 that some of the veterans of the sixth corps, which manned the fort, raised money to try to buy the land. as you will see, when looking around the fort, it is by no means all here at this time. but they tried to restore it as best as they could. you will notice the revetment, the logs -- fake logs made out of concrete. basically what we're seeing is this area over to about here and then on the front side, you will see the ditches still there. this area is cut off over on this side. it was never fully finished in the rear. it was more or less like what's called a lanette. they did have logs in the back to try to close it