tv [untitled] June 1, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
thank you. [ applause ] up next programs from american artifact series. first visit three surviving civil war forts around our nation's capital. explore the quarters of clara barton's missing soldiers office. later look at the transition from slavery to freedom. this is c-span 3 with politics and public affairs program throughout the week, and every weekend 48 hours of people and events telling the american story on american history tv. get our schedules and see past programs at our websites. and you can join in the conversation on social media
sites. each sunday evening at 7:30 now through labor day weekend american history tv features our series the contenders. 14 key political figures who ran for president and lost but changed political history. this sunday the great compromiser henry clay. >> his famous comment i would rather be right than be president i think still speaks to us. it's a call to people all across whatever we're doing, whether we're in politics or something else is to do the right thing. he also said, you know, that in a sense, that politicians need to remember their country and sacrifice for the country. i think that is still something that we need to remember as well. >> also this weekend, we'll feature the history of wichita as part of our visit to the largest city in kansas. american history tv, this weekend on c-span 3. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites 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 only one fort located 12 miles south of the city, and the confederate state of virginia just across the potomac river. by 1865, the nation's capital arguably had become the most fortified city in the world with a ring of about 70 armed forts and batteries encircling the city. we visited three of the surviving forts with dale floyd, author of a study on the civil war defenses of washington for the national park service. >> right now, we are in the museum at ft. ward which has a variety of different artifacts in it. one of the nice things is they have a map of the defenses of washington, and it gives you a good idea of where they are today. we are at ft. ward, which is here. and today we are also going to go to ft. foote which is down here and all the way up to
ft. stevens, which is up there. the reason that the forts were built was 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 into arlington and alexandria and started building fortifications. after the first battle of manassas in july of 1861, in which the union was actually defeated, the men came streaming back into the city, and the city, literally the confederates could have walk in and taken the city. after that, with the fear, more and more fortifications were built and general john g. bernard, who you might call the
father of the civil war defenses in washington, and he was in charge of them 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, which was also a union defeat, fear again and some more impetus to make sure the fortifications defending washington were doing their job. over the four years, many of the forts were changed. they were made larger and guns within them were changed to get the best function out of each fort and out of each system itself. the defenses were tested in july of 1864. before i say that, there were raids on the forts by the guerrilla forces like moseby
where they would come in and steal horses and supplies or whatever, but the only real attack, and it wasn't really an attack, it was a resonance in force took place on july 11th and 12th in 1864 when jubal early, he had marched up through the valley, fought out near frederick, maryland, and then watched -- marched towards washington coming in on the northern side and eventually came up and faced these forts up there, the main one ft. stevens where abraham lincoln actually came out to watch what was going on. he was not successful. he realized he couldn't do what he wanted to do and eventually turned around and went back down into the valley. and after that, basically nothing really tested the fortifications after that. besides the forts themselves,
you had the batteries that were on both sides or in the rear or whatever 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 that troops could make back and forth without being seen. now besides the forts, they also built other types of defenses such as block houses in certain places along railroads for channel attacks, and they had other things that they actually built for protection within the whole system of the defenses of washington. so it was actually a system of fortifications. and if you attacked one, like if you attacked here, would you
catch fire from the forts on both sides of that fort. so they were mutually supporting, and it was -- it would have been very hard to actually take one fort because of all the fire that you would receive coming from the various forts. so it was -- it's 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 various 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 then below it is a photo of ft. slemmer which is my favorite photograph of the civil war defenses of washington because
it shows you what a fort looked on the outside. the vegetation has been removed, but you have the abitis in front. this is the sally port with the troops coming out, and can you see over the parapet into the fort where the guns are mounted, so that's really one of my favorite photographs. so this is very helpful for a start. fort ward is actually a good place to actually start our tour of the civil war 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 as it might have looked. notice around it is the abatis on the outside of the ditch and
then the fort itself and then this is the northwest bastion here. this is the gate or sally port to ft. ward. it was on the rear wall of the fort. it's been redone a number of times. the army down at ft. belvoir, especially when the engineers were there, helped redo this gate a number of times, but this is your entrance to ft. ward. i want to point out. if we look around, there were buildings here. they 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 probably 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. belvoir helped rebuild this gate a number of times. they put the engineer castle on top. and, of course, they oversaw the construction of the original defenses of washington. this is one of the best preserved of the various forts that were 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. so 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 bombproof 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 or whatever they used in it. but it had dirt over top with grass growing on it. and 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. you have everything from field artillery to some bigger guns. the fort itself was supposed to cover the little river turnpike, the orange and alexandria railroad and the leesburg and alexandria pike, but we are on a high point so the guns can fire for a long distance, and they can cover those areas. the original fort that was build for 24 guns, when it was redone in -- finally in 1864, it held 36 guns and with the perimeter of 18 from 540 yards to 818
yards with a 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 bore, and the black guns were rifle guns. the rifle guns, of course, 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 and everything else
in here and fire it at an enemy and, of course, the chain or whatever would -- could mow down a number of men. so this became a very -- this type of gun became a 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 embrasures as they come out of the fort which the gun would have fired out of. also, on the inside of the ditch, that's called the scarp. on the outside, it's called the counterscarp, and notice at the top they have those bushes running along. that's to keep people from walking in the moat and trying to walk up the parapet. but the bushes are sort of like abatis, which were pointed sticks and stakes that they
would have outside a lot of the forts. so it has two purposes, to keep the people out and to kind of give you an idea what have the abatis 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 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 even rifle fire way back. you would have had to come up and hit the abatis and then into the ditch, down and then try to climb up the high parapet while you would have had infantry on the other side as well as artillery firing out at you. so it was not an easy task in trying to take a -- one of the forts in the defenses of
washington, plus you're 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, but 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've come from ft. ward, across the potomac river to ft. foote.
and 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. and the tour of them covered the potomac river in case ships or raiders of some sort would have come up. now 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, but on towards the chesapeake bay was ft. washington which is basically located about across from mt. vernon, george washington's home.
at the beginning of the war, it was manned actually by marines, and was manned in one sort of another during the war, but it was not actually part of the civil war defenses of washington, the circle of forts, but if there would have been ships trying to come up, it would have had an effect 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 that were 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 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, can you see a lot. some places it's completely overgrown, and you really don't have a good idea of what you're 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 that 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 up the river. as far as i know, it was never actually laid out, but they did have it moored here that they could use a chain across the river. this is the map. here is ft. foote and jones point over here and then back
over towards 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. so to give you an idea on the map and then the city, more or less, imposed on the map itself. we're coming up on one of the 15-inch rodman guns. you can see how large it is. there were guns like this that had actually a 360-degree 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 had happened was 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 then a national park service ranger showed up and said hey, what are you doing? and 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 carriages 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 war and after. 15-inch rodman guns. the problem with world war i and world war ii that so many guns were melded down, there are few guns left, big guns especially from the civil war period. there are some as a result. it is very 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 that was made in 1863. this is the initials of rodman, thomas rodman. he was also an inspector, so he may have inspected it. it depends on the fort itself as to what guns might actually be in them.
this one had two 15-inch rodman guns. they had four 200-pounder rifle perits which would have been large. six 30-pounder perits. there were, as i mentioned, a lot of places that were some vacant platforms. there were 11 vacant platforms where they could have had guns, so it depends on the size of the fort and what you're trying to do as to how many guns are actually in them and how many guns are available. john g. bernard, the man who oversaw the fortifications through most of the war as they redid and reconstructed some of these forts, he decided that new guns would go in and help cover this which was -- it wasn't doing before. so your plans for the fortifications, the system of 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 carriage 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 parapet, basically you're probably only going to want about 180-degree turn, but it could be fired the other way, if needed. so that gives you a good idea. but you can see the abatis, and notice the abatis coming up on the pointed stakes as i mentioned on the outside. it's in the ditch on the outside of the parapet 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. 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 manassas, which really scared the washington, d.c. area, and they started getting serious about building defenses around the city, so ft. massachusetts was built in the area by massachusetts troops. it was a perimeter of about 168 yards and encompassed about 200 men in -- in the fort. after second manassas, in august of 1862, they decided to make this larger because of its location. it's on a high ground, plus it covers seventh street which today is georgia avenue. but it was seventh street extended which a lot of people
used so it was important to protect it. they made it larger so that 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 then in towards washington, d.c. on july 11th, he came very near the fort here itself. his men were fairly exhausted. they did kind of feel it out that day, but decided that 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. now the defenses, as i mentioned, had started being built in 1861. this is kind of in 1864 with the battle of ft. stevens. this is kind of the culmination of the defenses. following the attack in july of 1864, really they pretty much went unmaligned, but they still had some troops to man them, but they weren't worried about that. lee was more or less headed south, and the other confederate troops were doing the same in other parts of the country. so in 1864, it was probably the culmination of the defenses themselves, even though 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 had 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. the ccc, you'll notice the revetment, the logs -- the fake logs are made out of concrete. okay. 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.