Browsing articles tagged with "Washington Arsenal Archives - Historic Fort Lesley J. McNair"
Dec
1

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Over 200 historical photographs chronicle the history of this historic US Army Post.  They are augmented with clear textual description.  Learn about this third oldest post – its origins date back to 1791 when Major Pierre L’Enfant laid out the new Capital City of Washington, DC.  Currently the home of the Military District of Washington, The Center of Military History, The Dwight D Eisenhower School, The National War College and The National Defense University.   Learn about the challenge for the Lincoln Assassination conspirators…  the home of the Army Corps of Engineers School and Band. While it was Washington Barracks, it was also home to the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”   All this and more …

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Also by John Michael

The first book about For Myer is also available autographed 

Images of America - Fort Myer

Images of America
Fort Myer

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Sep
22

Brick, Brick, Wall and a Few Buildings Too! (Part 1)

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

The Capital City Needs A New Federal Penitentiary – Part 1

charles bulfinchWhen President John Quincy Adams tapped Charles Bulfinch, the architect from Boston, to design the first federal penitentiary on the northern acres of Greenleaf Point, who knew the role this structure would later play in the history of the United States – specifically in regard to the Lincoln assassination.   Bulfinch, as the 3rd Architect of the Capitol, had redesigned that building, incorporating a new central dome to it. He succeeded Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who was the 2nd Architect of the Capitol and Stephen Hallet (a.k.a. Étienne Sulpice Hallet) who was Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant‘s draftsman and the 1st Architect of the Capitol.

It Began in Boston

Bulfinch made his name and reputation in New England, specifically in Massachusetts  and around Boston -designing several buildings. Among these facts were why in 1817 he was named as the Architect of the Capital. In addition to the work done on the Capitol, he designed a prison in Alexandria, Va. (1826) and also designed the Federal Penitentiary (1827-28), Washington DC.

An In-depth Penitentiary Study

To get a better perspective about a penitentiary design,  Bulfinch sought out a variety of prisons both existing  or those being built in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  Armed with that knowledge, he then prepared a report to the President that highlighted his actions and the conclusions and recommendations for the new penitentiary that would be built for the Capital City located at the northern end of Greenleaf Point.

bulfinch penitentiary report

Results  and Recommendations for the Penitentiary

charles bulfinch on penitentiary

Read a copy of the report bulfinch-report-to-congress

A Penitentiary Design

Based on his report and details in it, the new District of Columbia Penitentiary would be a four-story brick building with twenty cells on each floor or a total of one hundred sixty cells surrounded by a perimeter wall.  The front of the penitentiary would face north.  Within the courtyard would be a separate building – that’s where the kitchen, mess hall and the shoe factory would be.

bulfinch penitentiary sketch

 

penitentiary plan

What the Future Held

The penitentiary completed in 1827 and never filled to capacity and the shoe factory didn’t provide enough income to maintain the facility since the combination of types of prisoners along with the number wasn’t sufficient Yet less than four decades later, it would be the site of what would be the incarceration, trial, and hanging of four of the Lincoln assassination conspirators including Mary Surratt – the first woman hanged by the US  federal government.

washington federal penitentiary

 

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Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

An  Author Autographed copy of the book is available for purchase.  Buy the Book

 

Brick, Brick, Wall  – Part 2 –

After that fateful day – 07 JUL 1865  what happened Next?   (COMING SOON)

May
16

Mr Steen Goes to Washington – Arsenal That Is

Producing a book of history,  one that chronicles over two centuries of activity is none the less a challenge in itself.  Besides locating and assembling the content of the book, selecting the right cover image is part of that challenge.

After digging through special collections, online resources and trips to the archives, it was a challenge to narrow down the selection to choose one photograph from the hundreds that were inspected and collected.  One was needed that would convey the historic nature of the first fortification in the new Capital City of Washington DC.

With acreage just about one hundred, Fort Lesley J. McNair is a small US Army Post – in fact, it’s probably the smallest active post within the US Army.  Roosevelt Hall is the iconic building that traces its origins to the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White who designed the building named after President Theodore Roosevelt – who laid the cornerstone.

 

The US Army’s First Official Photographer

One was finally selected, it was an Andrew J. Russell photo taken while he was at Washington Arsenal.   Russell was one could say the first official photographer of the US Army.   Russell took his first photographs with a camera that he borrowed. Colonel Herman Haupt used Russell’s photographs to illustrate his reports. Haupt arranged to have Russell removed from his regiment on March 1, 1863, so that he could photograph for the United States Military Railroad and the Quartermaster Corps, until he mustered out in September 1865. Russell was the only military officer to photograph for the War Department during the Civil War.  So one could consider Russell the first official photographer of the US Army.

A Cover Photograph is Chosen

When Captain Russell visited Washington Arsenal in 1865, little did he know that he was capturing an image that would later appear on the cover of a book.  The riveting  photograph of a row of artillery with the Model Arsenal building and a Soldier mounted on horseback in the background was selected to grace the cover of the book  “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  However, that’s when the challenge began.  The artillery needed to be identified, and among the network of advisors, none knew what they were.

Washington Arsenal with the model arsenal building and confederate napoleons

Washington Arsenal with the model arsenal building and artillery

Enter Marshall Steen of Steen Cannons

That need generated another research effort to be launched.  After several hours of digging among many sources, Steen Cannons was found.  They build reproductions of artillery for the National Park Service or for private collectors or just about anyone who would like a fine reproduction..   Marshall was contacted and the photo was sent … he graciously provided a quick answer …  “They’re Confederate Napoleons!” –  however, the return suggestion came in that  “This is a Union arsenal!”   the reply was …  “Accept the fact that they are Confederate Napoleons.”

Armed with this information, the description was entered into the book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair” and it was published, though still puzzling that Confederate artillery was at a Union arsenal.   Further research resulted in an “EUREKA!”  Another photo was found that showed the artillery along with caissons and limbers sitting at Rocketts Wharf in Richmond, VA awaiting shipment back to Washington Arsenal.  Mystery solved!

 

Artillery Park at Rocketts' Wharf in Richmond Virginia

Artillery Park at Rocketts’ Wharf in Richmond Virginia

 

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Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

An  Author Autographed copy of the book is available for purchase.  Buy the Book

Jul
18

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822 people entered this giveaway

 

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BUY OR ENTER GIVEAWAY

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair is an outstanding book …  after several months of researching – pouring over thousands of photographs, maps and illustrations – and writing – word smithing the proper presentation, it became a reality on 04 MAY 2015.   It chronicles the decades of historic contributions made during those years by names such as Abraham Lincoln, Pierre L’Enfant, Walter Reed, Elihu Root, Theodore Roosevelt and others.

When it was the Washington Arsenal, it provisioned the Union Army during the Civil War. It’s acres are where The Old Guard were garrisoned,  where the Engineer School of the US Army trained new engineers, where the US Army Band  – “Pershing’s Own”  was relocated to after their organization at Fort Hunt, Virginia and before they relocated to Fort Myer, Virginia.  The Lincoln assassination conspirators were incarcerated tried and hanged.   Twenty-one women lost their lives when the gunpowder where they were working exploded.  Their group grave is at Congressional Cemetery.

 

Now an author autographed copy can be yours for free … OR you can support the author’s work and purchase one for yourself and your friend and your local library … BUY THE BOOK

 

For those of you who like to play the odds and might get a free one… the author has placed a giveaway on GOOD READS where THOUSANDS of members are vying for the same free books only a few copies.   Either way you win… in the former, it’s a win win win for you, the author and military history.

 

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Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair by John Michael

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

by John Michael

Giveaway ends September 30, 2015.

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OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS & ILLUSTRATIONS

The book, Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair contains over two hundred historical photographs, images and illustrations which chronicle the two hundred plus years of history among the acres of this US Army Post.

The book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  is “a walk down memory lane” as one reader called it after he turned the last page.  Go beyond

Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

the website and read more of the history with your own copy – BUY THE BOOK offers the opportunity to get either a personalized & autographed copy from the author or purchase the book from one of the major resellers.

 

May
4

A Slain President is Honored – Lincoln in Springfield

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

PRESIDENT JOHNSON CLOSES THE GOVERNMENT

Lincoln's Funeral Train

Lincoln’s Funeral Train

 

The body of Abraham Lincoln, slain president of the United States reached Springfield,  Illinois by train.  On 04 MAY, 1865 he was laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  This was after a 1,500 miles passing through 180 cities along the way that began on 21 APR 1865 in Washington, DC.

President Andrew Johnson issued an order to close down the United States government to honor the slain president.

THE WAR DEPARTMENT CLOSES –

MINUTE GUNS ORDERED

The War Department also issued an order to close on that day.  Also, at Washington Arsenal, minute guns would be fired from noon until sunset to honor the slain president.

These orders appeared in the 04 MAY 1865 issue of the Washington Star newspaper.  The excerpt is below.

1865 MAY 04 - Minute Guns fired at Washington Arsenal honoring slain President Abraham Lincoln Washington Star

1865 MAY 04 – Minute Guns fired at Washington Arsenal
honoring slain President Abraham Lincoln
Washington Star

 

OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS & ILLUSTRATIONS

The book, Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair contains over two hundred historical photographs, images and illustrations. They chronicle the two hundred plus years of history among the acres of this US Army Post.

The book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  is “a walk down memory lane” as one reader called it after he turned the last page.  Go beyond

Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

the website and read more of the history with your own copy – BUY THE BOOK offers the opportunity to get either a personalized & autographed copy from the author or purchase the book from one of the major resellers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN MICHAEL CREATIVES    —   JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

 

 

 

Apr
15

O Captain My Captain

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on 14 APR 1865 at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC.  Some call him the last casualty of the US Civil War.  In response to the death of the President,  Walt Whitman, America’s Poet, wrote a poem that was a tribute to Lincoln and his efforts to see the country through the war.

 

O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman

by Walt Whitman

Jan
10

Where Lincoln Walked – in Richmond

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

Rocketts Wharf – Where Lincoln Walked…

Rocketts Wharf Richmond

Rocketts Wharf
Richmond

#historicfortmcnair — It is rather serendipitous that the cover of the book shows Washington Arsenal after the Civil War. – “Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair” contains a row of artillery – Confederate artillery – Napoleons which were captured from the arsenal in Richmond.  Their journey began  at Rocketts Wharf they were brought for shipment.  The same place where President Abraham Lincoln disembarked and walked to the Confederate White House.

It is actually close to 2 miles away. The State Capitol is about 5 blocks above the river, (the Confederate White House a few more blocks north), but that point is at the falls of the James, which is not navigable. That is why Lincoln had to disembark and go ashore downriver from the Capitol, and walk through town. He had come up the James River from City Point near present-day Hopewell, where the Union troops were based.

The photo taken in May 1865, shows the assembled cache of captured ordnance that was  destined to end up at Washington Arsenal and on the cover of the book…

“Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair” contains over 200 historical and contemporary photographs which highlight some of the people and events of this historical US Army Post. It is the site of the incarceration, trial and hanging of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Familiar names such as Walter Reed, Theodore Roosevelt along with Abraham Lincoln walked among the acres which has become an Army post in tribute to one of the highest ranking officers killed in action during World War II.  Current home to the headquarters of the Military District of Washington, the post is also shared by National Defense University along with several of its colleges.   The US Army’s Center for Military History also occupies one of the historic buildings on post which originally was the quartermaster stables then the post exchange… perhaps a good place to “horse around” … don’cha think?

OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS & ILLUSTRATIONS

The book, Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair contains over two hundred historical photographs, images and illustrations which chronicle the two hundred plus years of history among the acres of this US Army Post.

The book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  is “a walk down memory lane” as one reader called it after he turned the last page.  Go beyond

Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

the website and read more of the history with your own copy – BUY THE BOOK offers the opportunity to get either a personalized & autographed copy from the author or purchase the book from one of the major resellers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN MICHAEL CREATIVES    —   JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Jan
1

Ironclads Bombard Fort Sumter and Lose

By John Michael  //  Civil War History  //  No Comments

IRONCLADS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR

In April 1863, Major General David Hunter prepared his land forces on Folly, Cole’s, and North Edisto Islands to cooperate with a naval bombardment of Fort Sumter – the second attack on this coast artillery fortification.  Hunter was the Commander of the South Department.  He would later become a member and president of the military commission that tried the Lincoln assassination conspirators at Washington Arsenal in the Federal Penitentiary..

Rear Admiral  S.F. Du Pont Commands the Ironclad Squadron

On April 7, 1863, the South Atlantic Squadron, comprised of several ironclad warships, under Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont bombarded Fort Sumter, having little impact on the Confederate defenses of Charleston Harbor. Although several of Hunter’s units had embarked on transports, the infantry were not landed, and the joint operation was abandoned.

Charleston Harbor - Fort Sumter  Attack of the Ironclads

Charleston Harbor – Fort Sumter
Attack of the Ironclads

The ironclad warships USS Keokuk, USS Weehawken, USS Passaic, USS Montauk, USS Patapsco, USS New Ironsides, USS Catskill, USS Nantucket, and USS Nahant participated in the bombardment.  USS Keokuk, struck more than 90 times by the accurate Confederate fire, sunk the next day.  The USS Montauk would go on to later be where some of the Lincoln assassination conspirators would be confined once the space on the USS Saugus was exhausted.  The conspirators were originally incarcerated on ironclad warship by order of Secretary of War, Edwin  Stanton who feared that with the sentiment high regarding the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, there would be lynch mobs to attack the conspirators.

Sinking of the USS Keokuk 08 APR 1963

Sinking of the USS Keokuk
08 APR 1963

Dec
13

Washington Arsenal – The Ballistic Pendulum

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

Washington Arsenal – An Arsenal to the Union

For most of the 19th century (18 to 1881) the acres of Greenleaf Point were an arsenal know as Washington Arsenal.  The British invaded and destroyed it  in 1814 when they attacked Washington DC. After the War of 1812, the Washington Arsenal was rebuilt and continued to provide the ordnance and munitions needed by the military.  It was an active arsenal until after the US Civil War.  Gun carriages and limbers were constructed in the workshops.  Other buildings had workers (primarily females) who manufactured cartridges for the rifles.  In June 1864 an explosion took the lives of twenty-0ne women when the gunpowder they were using to create cartridges ignited.

TESTING AND THE BALLISTIC PENDULUM

1857 Napoleon

1857 Napoleon

 

 

Testing of new ordnance and gunpowder was another activity on those acres and in 1842 and 1843 a series of tests were documented and published in a report.  The report by Captain Alfred Mordecai was  about the ballistic pendulum that was constructed at the Washington Arsenal (see illustrations of the the pendulum in the book below). It used to determine the effectiveness of gunpowder in a variety of artillery tubes.  Test firings occurred along the west side of the arsenal and fired at a target that was placed further south along the edge of the arsenal. (See map in the book below)

 

 

 

OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS & ILLUSTRATIONS

The book, Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair contains over two hundred historical photographs, images and illustrations which chronicle the two hundred plus years of history among the acres of this US Army Post.

The book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  is “a walk down memory lane” as one reader called it after he turned the last page.  Go beyond

Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

the website and read more of the history with your own copy – BUY THE BOOK offers the opportunity to get either a personalized & autographed copy from the author or purchase the book from one of the major resellers.

 

Oct
12

Washington Arsenal – Provisioner to the Union

By John Michael  //  Washington Arsenal  //  No Comments

 

It’s Now an Arsenal

Prior to and during the US Civil War, Washington Arsenal played a significant role in provisioning and distribution to the needs of the Union Army. It was here that the production from the foundries were collected and production of shot and shell happened.  During the height of the war, the worker population within the arsenal were several hundred – they were either assembling gun carriages & limbers or producing cartridges.

Railroad tracks criss-crossed the acres of the peninsula to transport materials or finished products.  Given the location, easy access to the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers provided smooth transfer of materials, ordnance and even troops, supplies and other related items.

Women Workers – The Explosion

Among the workers within the arsenal were young women and girls who would be charged with the task of assembling cartridges.  Output on a daily basis was extensive and numbered around 125,000 cartridges.  Catastrophe would occur in 1864 … the month of JUNE when an explosion took the lives of twenty-one of these workers and destroyed the building they were working .

Arsenal Workers

Arsenal Workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cannon Balls Artillery Tubes and Limbers

In other buildings work was done to build the carriages where the artillery tubes were placed.  They were complemented by other areas where workers would build the limbers to haul the artillery piece and caissons.  The acres were full of the final products that would be either shipped out by boat or on railroad car to the field of battle

Artillery Limbers and Caissons

Artillery Limbers and Caissons

OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS & ILLUSTRATIONS

The book, Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair contains over two hundred historical photographs, images and illustrations which chronicle the two hundred plus years of history among the acres of this US Army Post.

The book “Images of America – Fort Lesley J McNair”  is “a walk down memory lane” as one reader called it after he turned the last page.  Go beyond

Images of America - Fort Lesley J. McNair

Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair

the website and read more of the history with your own copy – BUY THE BOOK offers the opportunity to get either a personalized & autographed copy from the author or purchase the book from one of the major resellers.

JOHN MICHAEL CREATIVES    —   JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

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